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Monday | 04 February, 2013 | 11:35 am

Keeping track

By Gretchen Salois

When cash is paid for scrap, software helps keep exchanges honest and reliable

January 2013 - Every day, transactions are made throughout the world for goods, services and commodities. In the scrap industry, exchanges are made daily, and scrap yards must be able to keep track of transactions without slowing the pace of business—all while adhering to state laws and regulations. To ensure material being purchased isn’t stolen and to hold sellers accountable, scrap yards turn to software to simplify day-to-day record keeping.

Tri-State Iron and Metal Co., Texarkana, Ark., a midsized scrap yard running a steel shredder, invested in software developed by Long Beach, Calif.-based 21st Century Programming in 2001. “Prior to that, we were using a pen and paper system and custom DOS program that only covered our purchasing,” says Haley Glick, corporate secretary at Tri-State Iron. “We needed a piece of software that could better help us and grow with us.” 

Tri-State Iron didn’t have a shredder back in 2001. “We’ve grown so much with the software since we first started using it,” Glick says, adding the company was confident in the software because 21st Century Programming owners, Dave and George Kane, grew up in the scrap industry. “Before using this software, we used to take photos of every load that came in for internal purposes, but if we had a question about a load from three weeks ago, there was no way to remember exactly which one it was. This software makes pulling up that information very easy.”

In Gainesville, Texas, David Fulton, owner and president of DEF Recycling LLC, branched off from his family’s scrap yard. When he opened his own company, he purchased a compact version of 21st Century Programming’s software, ROM Express, and after nine months running the yard, invested in the full version. 

“Between my family’s scrap yard and my own business, I’ve been using 21st Century Programming’s software for nearly nine years. After nine months of having the compact version, I was anxious to get back to the full software package because I knew what I was missing,” Fulton says. 

“I’ve found the software helps me from the accounting side of the business down to the process of weighing a truck on the scale,” Fulton adds. “It keeps inventory and keeps everybody honest.” Fulton says a major benefit to using 21st Century Programming is follow-up service and quick response to any questions. “If you can’t get service after the initial purchase—you’ve got nothing,” he says.

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Why it’s useful   

Switching from a pen and paper method of record keeping to software isn’t as daunting as it might sound. There are modifications to the software on a daily basis. “This way, customers stay current. They don’t live in a DOS world,” says Philip Rafle, sales manager at 21st Century Programming. “If you pull out your printer from 1992 and try to plug it into your current computer, it’s not going to work. You have companies trying to use software from 1980 and trying to make it work with today’s technology, and they’re having huge difficulties.

“We update our versions so it works with the latest technology,” Rafle continues. “We allow for Web portals and iPhone and iPad apps to look up information quickly. 

“There are so many ways to scrap things out,” Rafle says. “When you do something with pen and paper for 50 to 100 years, going to a computer system is different. We will tell you how to use our system to work best with your business and we’ll show you shortcuts, a faster, easier way to do business.”

The training process can lead to questions, and 21st Century Programming has found another way to make technical help quick and easy. Although calling always is an option, where someone can troubleshoot an issue over the phone, the company also offers its ROM University course catalog. This guide lists courses offered to trainees who wish to self-enroll in classes they may not have been assigned originally. Current ROM users enrolled in the first tier of 21st Century Programming’s multitiered training program have access to an online training course. mm-0113-scrap-image2

The course has full-length classes that are updated regularly, as well as video guides for frequently asked questions. The free online resource also offers a complete downloadable library of operating manuals and workstation cheat sheets. Quizzes allow companies to ensure workers are comfortable with the software. “It also allows our trainers to track a company’s progress and help them in any areas where they might be stumbling,” says Kathy Dumalski, marketing and public relations manager at 21st Century Programming.

“ROM University is just great. Our new junior accountant just went through it and thought it was very helpful,” Glick says. “Their support is great and they’ve made the software really user-friendly.”

Program in practice

In addition to the easy-to-reference training program, there are a number of features Fulton at DEF Recycling finds particularly helpful. “There is a camera on each scale and sometimes multiple cameras depending on the site. You can get all kinds of views, from the top view of the material to the foot screen, where you can pan and tilt the view of the load and get the best shot,” he says. “The scale options saves the photos and ID information on a single ticket for easy referencing.

“That takes a lot of burden off us if law enforcement comes in investigating scrap theft. We can pull up all the information and they can figure out quickly whether that is or is not the stolen material in question,” Fulton continues. “We can easily pull up names, ID photos and thumbprints—it’s very useful.”

Pricing also is a concern because certain commodities, such as copper and brass, have volatile pricing patterns and can change daily. The software allows workers to turn over material at accurate prices. The tag-and-hold laws in Texas require scrap yards to hold on to material for three days. “That tag and hold on copper, in particular, can be a downfall for the customer because us scrap dealers can’t take a chance on a down market,” Fulton explains. “If we bought copper at $3 per pound and the price goes down 30 cents, you lose the profit.” Copper and brass frequently change, whereas steel prices are set more on a monthly basis. 

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The program offers operators an easy way to make deductions for contamination, scan IDs and keep customer records, as well as take notes. Everything is completed by a push of a button. Transactions are seamless. “There’s a lot of cash that goes through a scrap yard on a daily basis,” Rafle adds. “This software ties into your cash draw and cuts checks automatically at the click of a mouse or links to your ATM. 

“Recyclers choose us every day over the other guys because of our 150-plus years of combined experience in recycling and information technology,” Rafle continues. The company has a staff of more than 30 software consultants, networking technicians and program developers to assist customers. The Recycling Operations Manager is intuitive to a recycler’s needs from scaling to shipping to accounting. 

“Why do recyclers choose 21st Century Programming?” asks George Kane, vice president, 21st Century Programming. “For inventory control, pricing management, order management and for policing their employees to make sure they’re not getting ripped off.” MM

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